A Few Drinks a Day Can Affect Brain: Rat Study

A new study in rodents suggests that having a few drinks a day can adversely affect the brain. Researchers at Rutgers University found a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent—the U.S. legal driving limit—can negatively affect brain cell production, UPI reports.

In the study, one group of rats was given alcohol comparable to about three to four drinks for women and five drinks for men, while another group was not given alcohol. The number of nerve cells in the brains of rodents with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 dropped by almost 40 percent, compared with rats not given alcohol. The effect was seen in the hippocampus, the area of the brain where new nerve cells are produced. The hippocampus is associated with some types of new learning.

“Moderate drinking can become binge drinking without the person realizing it,” lead author Megan Anderson said in a news release. “In the short term there may not be any noticeable motor skills or overall functioning problems, but in the long term this type of behavior could have an adverse effect on learning and memory.” She added, “This research indicates that social or daily drinking may be more harmful to brain health than what is now believed by the general public.”

The study appears in the journal Neuroscience.